Is It Time to Automate Your Picking Process?

When you find your business sits within a rising industry sector, you take the opportunity to invest in the growth of your business. This can take on various forms as you may acquire more product lines or customer projects. Perhaps you plan on expanding marketing campaigns, sales channels or e-commerce initiatives, all of which contribute toward increased sales. Time to celebrate! 

Amidst all of the celebrations, you must remember that with progress comes a few "growing pains" such as:
  • Employee headcount increases
  • Potential for a higher turnover rate
  • Inventory control issues
  • A backlog of unfulfilled orders develops
  • Missed shipment deadlines 

These challenges are actually "good problems" to have, as they all point towards growth. In response to this growth you have likely considered warehouse expansions or even added another shift to keep up with demand. Growth comes in phases and it's important that you know when to expand and what problems to expect as your business adjusts to its new normal.

6 River Systems' mobile collaborative robot, Chuck, wins two Red Dot Awards for outstanding design (Photo: Business Wire)

When Does Warehouse Automation Make Sense?

Most of our clients tend to be open-minded and want to understand how certain options may impact and improve their operations. There is that gut feeling that "If we don't invest in technology, we may fall behind." You must first consider – are you a good candidate? When does investing in automated picking (and putting) make sound business sense?

Taking the next step to further your warehouse management system will no doubt change your culture and your processes. Depending on the extent of your growing pains, some degree of investment should be planned. Your goal is to meet growing demand, while retaining customers and repeat business. You want to keep your customers happy! Options available in the category of "Automated Picking systems" are immense: 

  • Pick to Light – Location
  • Pick to Light – Cart
  • Voice Pick
  • Automated Carousels
  • VLM's
  • Mini-load systems
  • Smart conveyor or tuggers
  • Picking "bots" and more 

The Impact of Growth

As you make adjustments to your processes you must consider that the costs of growth may rise beyond expectation. You may see a reduction in profit, and chances are, your customer satisfaction is impacted. Below are several points you should consider as you plan your expansion. 

  • Space limitations: Growth forces you to better utilize space or mandates a move.
  • Multiple Shifts: There may be an added cost of headcount & facilities management per shift as demand rises.
  • Daily Throughput: You have at least five pickers making 300 picks daily. Consider the cost of human travel time to fulfill each order. 
  • Inventory Accuracy: Replenishment rates may fall short of demand (or vice versa).
  • Order Accuracy: Consider the cost of a wrongly picked item. You need to be aware of the possibility of a rise in error rate.
  • Customer deadlines: Determine the cost to both your customer and you, if the deadline is missed.
  • Employee Retention & Temps: What is the impact when individuals don't report as scheduled? What about the cost of ergonomic injuries (lifting, etc.)?
  • Security: Is theft a problem? How are SKUs (inventory) tracked and audited?
  • Seasonal peaks: Does peak demand cripple your operation? 

Problem Solved

No two customers are the same. McGee represents numerous solution providers so we may determine the best material handling technology option(s) available for you. Allow us to determine what makes the best business sense for your threshold "pain". Let's tackle this together!

Call us today at (770) 458-4346 or read more about automated picking options here.

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